Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

Here are excerpts from two different reviews of The Memory Keeper's Daughter which I just finished reading.

From The Washington Post

    My first daughter was born lifeless and gray-blue. "Like a seal," I remember thinking as the room went bright white and the doctor started suctioning her mouth. I pushed my wife's head back onto the pillow so she wouldn't be able to see the slick form down below. The oxygen tank hissed angrily. In the minutes that followed, as we waited and waited for my daughter to cry, all the hopes we'd stored up were suffocated under the weight of our new future that filled the room with fear.

    Mercifully, few parents experience the shattering birth moment we did, and it may be that memories of my daughter's birth magnified the emotional impact of Kim Edwards's debut novel. But I think anyone would be struck by the extraordinary power and sympathy of The Memory Keeper's Daughter.

    I don't read a lot of fiction and I most especially do not read romances. I'm not sure how this book is categorized but it is the most compulsively readable, emotional, and memorable book I've read since "Gone With the Wind" over 40 years ago. This is an epic story of a doctor who, in an emotional moment and with all his medical knowledge telling him to protect those he loves, makes a decision that affects him and everyone around him forever.
    On a blizzardly night in 1964, David Henry helps his wife give birth to twins, one a perfect boy and the other a girl with Downs Syndrome. At that time, imperfect children were "put away" in institutions where they died young and families and friends spoke of them in shame-filled whispers, if at all. David grew up with a very sickly sister whose death at age 12 ended all meaningful life for his parents. With all good intentions of sparing his wife and new son the pain he and his parents endured, he made a fateful decision and told his wife the little girl had died at birth. It was a decision that, once made, could not be redeemed nor remedied.
This is a book about the family of a Down's syndrome child and examines the disasterous effect of maintaining silence about her existance and not accepting this child into the family. It is poignant in that it deals with a very real dilemma. It is beautifully written with delicately developed imagery and well drawn emotional and psychological character sketches. The author writes as a Christian although we only get glimpses of this through a few lines of Bible quotations, in the KJV, and other brief references.

The book is easy to read and provides numerous characters to identify with. I would highly recommend it for those with handicapped children or those who know someone with a handicapped child. However, I find the treatment of the Down's syndrome child herself to be disappointingly undeveloped. The book is more about her birth family. It is still an important book about a very important topic and I'm glad that I took time out to read this book. It is a good read for anyone. Lots of romance, family drama, strong visual imagery and exquisite language. Okay, there were a few improbable events in the storyline but I managed to enjoy it just the same.


      Iyov said...

      But imagine how much more interesting the book would have been if the story were about a woman who gave birth to a seal. Especially if it were told from the seal's perspective, Kafka-esque style.

      Suzanne McCarthy said...

      Thanks Iyov,

      I am not very familiar with Kafka.